Read an Excerpt
Sisters Are There for You in a Pinch
Make My Day, Doughboy! by Karen Scalf Laramer
For some unknown reason, I was awake at 3 a.m. when my sister Michelle tiptoed past my bedroom door. I said, "Hey."
"Hey back." She poked her head in my room. "I'm glad you're awake. I heard a noise in the basement."
Ten months earlier, my two kids and I moved into a big old house in the woods and invited my sister and five-year-old niece to move in with us. No husbands or sons, just two single moms, our three daughters, and enough clothes to fashionably outfit a third-world country. Now the dark basement of that big old house was making weird noises in the middle of the night.
I threw on a robe and we tiptoed down the stairs, through the main hall, around the corner, and peered down the basement stairwell.
I whispered, "What did you hear?"
"I heard scratching. It was so loud I thought it was you."
I frowned. "Just how loud do I scratch?"
"I think we need a weapon."
"Curling iron? Stilletos? Cheez Whiz?"
Michelle smacked palm to forehead. "Gun!"
Michelle's former husband, Russ, had been a police officer. Of course there would be a gun. I followed her into the office and watched as she tried to remember the combination to the fire safe. Eventually she gave up, rocked back on her heels, and looked at me. At the exact same moment we both said, "Rolling pins!"
It's amazing we even own rolling pins. After all, we are a household run by two single moms. We don't have husbands to keep in line, and we don't have time to bake from scratch. Nevertheless, five minutes later we were armed and dangerous.
Michelle said it well. Brandishing her rolling pin she shouted, "Hey, whoever you are -- we're armed and dangerous!"
I sighed. "The Pillsbury Doughboy is quaking in his boots. Look, maybe we should call the police. Sure, we could go down together into the dark basement, clutching each other, flashlight in one hand and rolling pin in the other, but, frankly, I've seen those movies and it never ends well."
She saw my point. We called 911, and ten minutes later we spotted flashlight beams darting around the house. When we answered a rap at the door, three o fficers filled the hallway. Michelle btold them what she'd heard, and they disappeared into the bowels of the house.
I sat cross-legged on the floor of the hall in my terry-cloth robe. Michelle sat on the bottom step of the stairs leading to the bedrooms where our daughters slept soundly. There were three men in our basement. Four if you counted the intruder. Or maybe three men and a squirrel. Michelle was still holding the rolling pin and wearing fuzzy slippers. Now that we no longer needed to protect our children with a baking implement, this suddenly seemed like an awfully exciting thing to be doing at 3:42 a.m. Adrenaline high and danger on the wane, we began to giggle. I admitted, "I called the police once like this when I was living in California. I kept hearing noises on the porch. The cop searched the outside of the house for ten minutes, then rang the bell to give me the news. Turns out I'd put a bag of trash on the front porch and some animal had been digging through it. Boy, did I feel stupid."
Michelle laughed. "When Russ was a rookie cop, he was doing a patrol check on a vacant house that was under construction, when he really had to pee. The plumbing was working, but none of the rooms had doors yet. As he's standing there taking care of business, it dawns on him that someone could sneak up behind him, so he draws his gun. Sure enough, he hears something behind him and whips around, a gun in one hand and, well...let's just say he had both hands full. I guarantee that electrician will think twice before showing up early for work ever again!" We laughed, exchanged more stories, laughed until we cried. We hadn't howled like this in months.
Michelle and I grew up happily together in Downey, California. Six years apart, we had rarely argued and were the best of friends. Moving in together twenty years later as adults should have felt familiar and predictable. Instead, the transition had proven a little more interesting than that. As it turns out, Michelle enjoys planning ahead while I, more often than not, am flying by the seat of my pants. She loves lunches downtown while I prefer grilled cheese at home. She likes to plan intimate soirees with close friends, while I regularly invite hordes of acquaintances to drop in anytime they're in the state of Colorado.
Circumstantial stress had taken its toll as well: We'd each had our hearts broken. Finances had been tight. Merging two households into one had been a major undertaking. And on top of everything else, our old house in the woods kept handing us interesting challenges like a flooded basement, beehives by the front door, and cell phone reception so unreliable as to be considered a myth by many who knew us.
Yep, we hadn't laughed like this in a very long time.
Eventually the officers reappeared to report that our basement was secure. They had no idea what Michelle had heard, but they were certain we were safe. They returned to their beat, and Michelle and I returned, lighter-hearted, to our beds.
Whenever life throws me a curve, whenever I feel tired or discouraged or alone, I think of an image from that night and I have to laugh.
It's the image of two sisters clutching each other, walking bravely into the unknown -- pointing a flashlight into the darkness and waving rolling pins. After all, sometimes things go bump in the night. Sometimes they go bump in your life. A sister by your side can make all the difference in the world. The fuzzy slippers are optional.
Humor for a Sister's Heart © 2007 by Howard Books